Thursday, July 30, 2020

Thousands of Fans Can't be Wrong

Wednesday, the 29th of July, was Geddy Lee's birthday. If you're not a fan of the rock band Rush, you may not know who Geddy Lee is (he is Rush's lead singer, and an excellent bass player too), and you may wonder why I'm devoting a blog post to him. Suffice it to say he means a lot to me (I've known him for more than four decades, and consider him a friend). He also means a lot to the band's world-wide community of fans, large numbers of whom have admired his work for as many years as I have. Rush are no longer performing-- they announced their retirement in 2015, and in early 2020, the band's drummer, Neil Peart, lost his battle with cancer. But for the fans, Rush's music lives on; and all of us celebrate their birthdays, as well as remembering the concerts we attended over the years.


So, when Geddy had his birthday, I posted several photos on social media-- including this photo, which  was taken on a Thursday night, 18 July 2019, at the Brookline (MA) Booksmith, where Geddy was signing copies of his new book, "Geddy Lee's Big Beautiful Book of Bass."  (For those who haven't seen photos in my blog posts before, Blogger, which publishes my blog, now makes inserting photographs much easier, allowing me to add them into my posts.  Given how knowing Rush changed my life, it seems fitting that my first attempt to publish a photo is one with a member of the band.)  

More than 1500 fans commented on my post, wishing Geddy a happy birthday (I passed along those wishes through his sister, with whom I've become friendly...another benefit of knowing Geddy), and offering their recollections of times they met him or times they saw him perform.  A common thread, whether on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, was what a kind and humble person he is.  Rock stars are often stereotyped as arrogant, egocentric, or vain, but Geddy is none of these. He is as down-to-earth now as he was when his career was just beginning.

Geddy is also a philanthropist, and he's a devoted family man. And yes, he's also good to his mother! He loves music, but he also loves baseball, especially the Toronto Blue Jays; and he is a collector of memorabilia related to the game. (Combining his love for philanthropy with his love for baseball, in 2008, he donated over 200 autographed baseballs, signed by Negro Leagues players, to Kansas City's Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.)  

But about the photo-- the book-signing event got off to a late start because Geddy's plane was delayed. Fans patiently stood in long lines to see him, even briefly. I didn't want to bother him, given all the people eagerly wanting to say hi and get an autographed copy of his book; but when he saw me standing off to one side, he stopped what he was doing and asked everyone to wait. We hugged (this was last year, pre-pandemic), chatted very briefly, and then I asked if we could get a picture, since we hadn't seen each other in a while. Someone from the Booksmith staff kindly took the photo, and I am grateful that I could add it to my collection.   

For those who don't know much about Geddy, what I find unique about him (and his band-mates) is how appreciative they have always been for what I did for them. I am known for launching their career in the US, and I always stood up for them when media critics were scornful towards them; I advocated for their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and I was there to give a speech in June 2010 when they received it.  And they never forgot it. And they always showed their gratitude, even years later.


My point is not that I'm such a wonderful person-- my point is that as a music director and a deejay, I helped many rock stars during my years in radio, and seldom got so much as a thank-you; in fact, I seldom heard back from any of them. But Rush always kept in touch. If they could mention me during an interview, they always did. They didn't have to. Yet they still did it. And my experience is not unique: many fans have stories of how courteous and thoughtful these guys always were. Many fans have positive recollections of meeting them, even for a brief moment at a "meet-and-greet" event.  

I hope Geddy's birthday was a happy one (he spent it with his family, I am told). And I'm glad my post brought back some positive memories for the fans. In this crazy world, with a pandemic, political divisions, economic problems, and general insecurity, it's comforting to share some good music, and to keep in mind that there are still people out there who haven't changed-- they are still the same good people they always were. I don't know about you, but I find that both refreshing and encouraging.      

14 comments:

  1. "Rock stars are often stereotyped as arrogant, egocentric, or vain.."

    Unfortunately, in my personal experience & with someone close to me, they often are & with those I have in mind, to a borderline psychotic & criminal level, sadly.
    On the other hand, with Geddy Lee, we have a stellar example of how they *Should* be. Gracious, humble & unassuming.

    We love you, Donna & the guys of Rush! :)

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  2. Great pictures great recollections to a great band from a great lady! Thx Donna!

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  3. Wonderful Donna it's lovely Geddy got lots of birthday wishes and most importantly it was spent with his family let's hope the baseball brings lots of enjoyment too
    And big hugs for you too Donna for posting a lovely blog we have so so many fond memories of rush and lots of highlights too and of course Neil is always with us too

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  4. Donna, I've always considered you to be Rush's mom, and I would be honored to meet you someday. Thank you for everything.

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  5. Another comment to what kind of people Alex, Geddy and Neil are, that just amazed me, was that I heard if you sent something to an arena, stadium, venue where they were going to play, they would autograph it and send it back to you. I sent the Rolling Stone Rush cover to Rogers Arena in Vancouver and they all signed it and sent it back! They are all great people! RIP Neil

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  6. I had seen RUSH on the Time Machine Tour in Sheffield UK. Driving up the A1 back to Newcastle, me & my mate fancied some munchies and a drink. Pulling in to the first service station, I just parked or as my mate called it, dumped the car near the doors. I never gave it a thought but as I was walking in the building my mate was calling me. When I did look, I was actually blocking in Neil's tour bus. The driver was waiting to pay, so we politely asked if there was any chance of a autograph? He said Neil was asleep, whether he was or not we don't know. I joked on he wasn't going any where as I was blocking him in. He just smiled and paid for their goods. We paid for our stuff and walked to the car, the driver was their with another tour t-shirt and a tour programme for us. He again told us Neil was asleep but he'd be grateful to hear we enjoyed the show 🀘

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    1. Actually, sometimes Neil did take naps. It's exhausting being up on stage drumming as intensely as he did for three hours at a time! Neil was also famously shy and seldom was around to sign autographs. But he knew the fans appreciated his work, and he was appreciative whenever it was discussed.

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    2. Donna you turn me on the rush in the mid-70s when I was in high school at a Cleveland suburb. Listen to MMS and you playing Working Man. It blew me away. Then I saw Rush at the Cleveland agora. They were amazing. I think I wore out my cassette of Fly by night. Playing it in my car. Thank you for bringing them to Cleveland and playing them on the radio. These guys are the real deal and such great guys as they say in the Jewish religion Geddy of mench. And I know how hard it is to lose Neil to cancer. Just lost my wife to cancer 5 months ago. It's not easy. Rest in peace Neil.

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    3. I'll echo unknowns comments. You introduced me to Rush on WMMS (BeBox Deluxe as well, I believe). My first Rush show was them as an opening act at The Allen Theater.
      I can't thank you enough for everything you've done and continue to do.

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  7. Great Post, Donna. I’ve been a Rush fan since 1976. Aside from their amazing music, I have been impressed with everything I’ve ever read about each of them. I had my 30 seconds to meet Geddy when he signed my copy of his book and even in that very brief moment I felt the warmth he gave back. Three great musicians and human beings which is so rare in their rock star world.

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  8. Thank you for being Rush's chief cheerleader back in the day. It started here in Cleveland with Working Man, eh? Saw them 5 times but never got to meet them, but everything I've seen, read, or heard about them tells me they weren't rockstar assholes but genuine dudes. Rush forever. RIP Neil and John.

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  9. Donna we had the opportunity to meet amidst fans at a Rush show in Cleveland... You were equally gracious with your time and greeted me with a "Sat Sri Akal."
    We fans love the "boys" of Rush, but we revere what you did and the part you played! You are a great friend to the band and our fan community! πŸ––πŸΌπŸ˜Ž

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  10. What a fantastic post Donna! Thank you for always relaying to the band how many people love them out there.. BTW u are even more blessed as God knows how long any of us will get handshakes let alone Hugs let alone from geddy (who wisely fistbumps people 😊) after this pandemic.

    Great post as always!!

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